Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bacon, But Not Francis, Accommodations, and Story

 Because of the  persistent and oppressive nature of your illness, composition has been a fool's errand.  Not that composition at other, healthier times, is not a fool's errand.  

Even reading, another great pleasure, has let you know it is temporarily off limits, wanting,needing more of you than you have to contribute, leaving you to spend the day exploring the dim sequesters of the past.

To keep yourself occupied, what the musicians would call keeping the chops up, you may have invented a new literary format which,you'll call The Poetic Mystery, well aware it may be one of those things that sound exciting when it is happening but less worthy of mention comes the dawn, which in this case, will be the dawn of recovery.

Your other wanderings in memory provided you a pleasing time when, most mornings in the week, you were invited to breakfast with Dr. Arnold Kegel.  Yes, that Dr. Arnold Kegel.  A bright, chipper man with an almost rascally sense of presence, he gave you a great many things to consider, one of which you recount here as a way of cooking bacon on a triangle-shaped device that resembled the insides of a toaster.

Your plate filled with these slow cooked arms of bacon, you were urged to rediscover the joys of a hard-cooked egg rather than such food for dude ranch sorts as poached, soft-boiled, or scrambled.  

The times you were there, you two appeared to be alone, no servant or housekeeper.  To this day you wonder, did he in fact concoct, make, and bake his own bread?  And those magnificent pots of apple butter.  Could they have been whipped up in the interstices of his already extensive daily routing.

Oh, yes.  Part two, because there is a part two to the many remarkable things you learned from him.  Now, today, these many years later, you make a connection with that second principal.  

Standing before a group of second-year medical students, years ago, the good doctor suggested, "Most knowledgeable fellows like to think their equipment is what we'd call the organ of accommodation.  Gentlemen, and ladies, by the time you'll have worked through your ob-gyn stations, you'll have had all the information you need to decide what the organ of accommodation is."  

His eyes twinkled.  "I'm not saying your equipment isn't an organ, you understand--or that it does;t want to be accommodating, but I think you get my point."

Today, thank you for this insight,  Story is an organ.  It is an organ of accommodation.  It must have enough detail to provide a sense of reality in which two or more contrary forces, starkly real in their appearance, meet to debate the matter at the most heartfelt and emblematic nature.  It must accommodate social, psychological, and mythic implication and influence.

The true wonder is not that stories of this nature have been written at all, but continue to be written, continue to rouse themselves in the imagination of one of the few pure art forms and there are neither political, gender, or social boundaries.  Did you say Katherine Mansfield had it? Did you say Deborah Eisenberg?  Did you say John O'Hara and John Cheever?

Monday, November 23, 2015


Then there are days like this/

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Earnings Report, Day Four

 The warmth of sunlight on your eyes reminds you of the resonant harmony of a brass choir.  You are less than harmonic as you lurch out to feteh The New York Times, maneuver it and yourself into your reading chair with a thump.  So far, so good for your uninvited guest, the flue virus.

As you most often do, you find the Sunday Crossword Puzzle, curious to see if your mood is a product of clearing or fuzzy mind.  Number one:  Big gasbag.  Five letters.  Before you are able to conduct a survey of gasbags you've known in various universities or publishing ventures, the five letters are shouting out at you b-l-i-m-p.

This leads you to assess 1 down.  Sons of, in Hebrew.  Four spaces.  Piece of cake b-n-a-i.  In about a half hour, you are spread throughout the puzzle, overcome by the activity to the point where you have the first paragrap;h pretty well stated for the next essay to go into the book project.

The day looks well.  You've taken a close enough look at yourself in the mirror to know that while you might not look all that chipper and alert, there are signs churning within you of alertness and chipperness.  Except that they arenbt'  You recognize the oncoming chill, which means you'd been running fever to burn off the bugs, and now you must cool down.

That was some time ago.  You can keep your hear up, but you'd rather not.  You can keep your eyes open, but, well, you'd rather not.  The lesson learned from this day of the flu is that every key stroke on your keyboard, every line and swirl when composing in pen and ink must be earned.  There is no way around it,

This is what you earned today.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dreams of Vernor's Ginger Ale

So far as you're concerned, the most fun aspect of sleep is dreams.  You by no means put the knock on other aspects of sleep, not the least of which is providing you with a fresh take on the day ahead.  If there is anything to some of the studies you've been reading about, sleep appears to be offering the equivalent of a session with a shrink.

These past few days, your dreams have been wildly vivid, focusing more often than not on something you're writing or believe you should be, because others are waiting for it.  Wild and vivid to the contrary notwithstanding, your dreams tend to be about realistic things, which adds up to a satisfying sense.  

In one recent dream, you were making a getaway from some pursuer, driving what appeared to be a 1956 VW Beetle Sunroof with an FM radio a good friend of yours called decadent.ginger ale was, while wishing you had enough   The dream was going fine as you drove down a street that began to pinch in at the sides, leaving nothing but a single rail.  Unused to so much intervention in your dreams, you had no choice but to wake up.
The one notable feature you come across in your dreams is the dialogue, which is perhaps the weirdest aspect of all to your dreams.  Only last week, before you were hit with this despicable flu bug, you were in a restaurant, attempting to finish a meal.  The manager or owner, when presenting you with the bill, said, "Mr. Lowenkopf, you are the agenbite of inuit."  

You felt the response rising in you that asked "How the fuck do you come off talking to a patron that way?"  Whereupon, you woke, thinking how nice it was in a way for James Joyce to find his way into your dreams.  This example shows the extent to which your dream mechanism goes to represent people talking.

This introduces a dream-related quandary and perhaps more than anything illustrates how the flu bug has messed with your ordinary process, perhaps feeling the need to whisk you along your way to recovery.  In your dreams later this afternoon, you had the sudden awareness of how much good a glass or ginger ale would be for your battered carcass.  Not long thereafter, you believe you dreamed of your pal, Jim Alexander, calling through your window, checking to see how alive you still were, and did you need anything.

"Ginger ale,"  you said.  "Please."

"Anything else?"

"Ginger ale," spoken with the conviction of it having come from the deepest depths of you.

"On earth as it is in heaven,"  Alexander replied.  As you tossed and turned in bed, thinking of the curative potential of ginger ale, you were the more convinced you'd dreamed the first part.  Alexander does not talk like that.  You have never heard him say,"On earth as it is in heaven."

Back to some semblance of sleep then, all the while thinking what a splendid idea  ginger ale was, regretting your own wobbly condition which you knew would not let you venture out.  But wait, here it was, afternoon already turned to darkness, and here you were, stumbling to the refrigerator for a blast of ice water.  Sitting in plain site on your kitchen table was a box of soda crackers, in effect grinning at you in the haze of reality.

The soda crackers are important because you never once thought of them, awake or asleep.  The fact of their presence meant Jim Alexander had indeed come by to see if you were still alive.  You rushed to the refrigerator to confront a large bottle of Vernor's ginger ale.

The dance between dream and reality always fascinates you, but in these strange moments of you trying to cope with this invasion, odd dreams come through that more or less have ruled themselves out for relationship to anything of immediate concern.  Also arriving, a sudden, almost chilling suggestion related to a professional connection you've been trying to effect.  You couldn't read all the print on the document, but you knew its reference point.  Stamped in red stamp pad ink FORGET ABOUT IT.

Yes, quite wise.

A reminder that you need a dog.  A reminder of one of the hundred novels you were going to pitch from your work in progress in favor of a more significant one.

Things appear to be taking an upward turn.

Vernor's ginger ale.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Parallel Lines

Parallel lines were brought into your life to stay at about the midpoint of your venture into middle school.  You'd surely heard of parallel lines before that, what with your grammar school education being an evolutionary introductions to painting, drawing, and some hints at geometry.

But it remained for Marjorie Parcells to bring parallel lines him to stay with the announcement, on one Wednesday's art hours, that parallel lines meet in infinity.

You were already into reading novels that would be roughly classified as Boy's Adventure, from which you understood that parallel lines were just as often to meet in the penultimate or last chapter,  Marjorie Parcells seemed to understand that your boyish drawing skills had pretty well exhausted themselves, particularly since you already knew they were several generations from the process known as rendering, by which a more skilled drawer than you could cause things to resemble their actual counterparts.

"How about we just stick with parallel lines," she told you, indicating how those, when used with a certain attention to concept, could produce dimension of a significantly greater quality.  Much as you admired art and Marjorie Parcells, you were already setting off on your own mischievous ways. 

 "Some characters in books follow parallel lines," you said.  The look you got from her was one you still remember.  "Nicely done,Lowenkopf."  You like to nurse the belief that your observation to her was the main reason your grade in Art was a C+.  Most boys were lucky to get Cs in Art.

Some years later, when you were enrolled at the university, you began using the parallel lines approach whenever a paper was due, whenever a test asked for an essay, and whenever the muse appeared before you with news that she had bright a short story into your life, you relied on the parallel lines approach to composition.  The more you did it, the more you became aware it was being used in authors you enjoyed.

When you find yourself immersed in a novel where the first chapter has ended on a cliffhanger and the next chapter begins with a different point of view, perhaps even a different locale and time frame, you are on your way to becoming impressed with the skills and daring of the author; she or he means to bring this material together in one or more scenes where the reader will be able to see how the parallel lines jump over the art boundaries and into some serious dramatic interaction.

This brings you to your latest encounter with parallel lines.  As a general rule, you get forth most days with a cheerful, dare you even say chipper attitude, aware as you go that there are a number of slight distractions from the goal of getting your in-progress book finished.  Classes to prepare for, clients with work wanting editing, and the job you could not say no to, Editor of the Cafe Luna Literary Review.  This is a parallel line of some concern to you.

Set in motion against this parallel line, notwithstanding you had the super powerful flu shot, is a mean spirited strain of the influenza virus that beggars any past experiences with flu.  Some but by no means all symptoms are a woozy, light-headed feeling, balance difficulties, various internal throbbing pain, a serious, unrelenting thirst, and a need to make sure you can bridge the gap between bed and commode with all deliberate speed.  This last works in the face of you having been able to contemplate eating for the past two days.  

The battle lines have been drawn.  The battlefield is your body.  You are already reciting Harry's magnificent panegyric to his troops on the eve of the day of battle.  Of course, Shakespeare's poetry will work on these parallel lines.  But just in case, "Fuck you, Influenza."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Foggy Day

In the days before Internet and blogging, it was often your practice, as you lay abed awaiting sleep, to slip in a line or two of a poem, a paragraph of a short story, a line or two of an essay.  More often than not, when sleep arrived, the words vanished.  But even then, you did not mistake "thinking" for Composing.  For it to have been written, it had to have been set to paper or, as technology progressed, to screen.

Even then, composing meant getting the words down to the point where they could do something to you, embarrass, discourage, or somehow encourage you.  You were fast approaching the time and need to compose every day.  

On the rare days such as this one has turned out to be, when you find yourself invaded by a squatter virus who has in metaphor sprayed the interior of your skull with cloudy vapors, one of the few pleasures available is a return to thought composition.  But also, there is the primary bafflement then connection to a realization about your present murky condition and your overall intentions.

Being hit with what is probably a flu virus reminds you of the effect on you when your Inner Editor decides he want to have some fun, maybe throw a little party.  His goal, when he arrives, is clear.  He will be satisfied with nothing less than you pressing the delete key on your current work in progress.

Unlike you, your inner editor does not think things can be saved,  He has paid no attention to the things you've learned along the way, things which, now that you think of it, actually outpace him.  You have needed to retire to bed once in the setting down this statement of philosophy, in all possibility losing some of the narrative vector, but you note with some grim satisfaction that getting up the second time was easier, even seemed to carry with it the possibility of fun.

Having your mind clouded with flu and/or the internal editor is anything but fun, sends you reeling to a condition and place you have no wish to be.  The virus is the sort of alien you have no affection or use for, only a wary knowledge that enemies are slithering about.  

The interior editor is another matter.  He is a product of your cultural education, your awareness of standards to which you strive.but for many reasons you were led to believe were beyond you.  This is not you, in the throes of illness, blaming certain teachers because, in fact, there were other teachers no less encouraging.

Blame is a dismal thing, every bit as unfriendly as your current virus and your about-to-change relationship with your inner editor.  If you allow yourself the luxury of looking back on blame times, you may well find you pointing the finger at yourself.  There is and always has been time for growth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Truth of the Matter

When the time arrives for you to self-edit and possibly revise any given manuscript you've produced, one of the first things you look for is the word "truth" and such of your favorite habit phrases as "Truth to tell--" "If the truth be known," or "The truth is--"

The habit word can range from the seemingly innocuous "and" to a word you hate with a passion, "that," and other uses you've picked up over your years, a memorable one being 'accordingly," which you tend to use at the beginning of a sentence, as in "Accordingly, there is no value in such rhetoric."  Why not get rid of the "accordingly" and get right to the point, "There is no value in such rhetoric."  

Not that you have anything against telling the truth.  You in fact learn intriguing bits of information to chew over later when, in the heat of composition passion, you reveal something about yourself you hadn't been all that aware of on a more direct level. For instance, there's the gray area around exaggerating and telling a known untruth.  

If you are reporting a thing you saw or voicing an opinion, you are giving your version and should only have to resort to exaggeration in the sense of how important the event was, to whom, and what your share of interest in it might be.

If there was any doubt in your mind before you began this platform of blogging in March of 2007,this exercise has made it clear that you are not averse to casting yourself in a positive light.  As many of the entries will show, you're pretty good about leaving in the twists and turns of detail that show you as bearing an occasional flaw.

You organize search and destroy missions against phrases with "truth" in them as well because such tropes are cliches, meaning if you did not catch the truth tropes in the specific for-truth pass, you'd likely find them in the cliche pass.This leaves you with the basic assumption that you are at all times telling the truth, even when you are writing fiction.  There are numerous times when "truth" is brought out of an abstract state and signifies what a specific character believes to be so.

You may doubt the veracity of what the character said.  So, indeed, may one or more of the other characters.  You, and the other characters, may reach the conclusion that the character who has strayed from the truth has done so with an agenda that will come forth in the story.  On the other side of the binary pathway, your dramatic purpose may be served if other characters suspect a specific character of bending the truth. 

 This gives us a mythic situation in which Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo.  Talk about gift horses in the teeth, Cassandra, either through prophetic vision or human psychology, believed the gift was offered to ease Apollo's way into her pants.  She said no to his overtures, which prompted him to exact his revenge.  Her gift of prophecy would be accurate, but no one would believe her visions.

Imagine what a dramatic character myth has given us, playing as it does on the woo-woo abilities of the gods to create cosmic mischief  and the simple binary of a woman who often knows what she is talking about, but her visions go unheeded. "Hey, Uncle Fred is going to stop by tonight on an unannounced visit."  "Uncle Fred would never so such a thing.  He's too considerate of politeness rituals."  Yeah, well, just you wait and see."

For you to say you will always attempt to tell the truth burdens you with the responsibility of investing characters who mean some harm or opposition to other of your characters with an imperative to "tell it as they see it," which is a rank cliche and will have to go in one of your many romps through the landscape of your imagination.

For you to say you will never exaggerate is another matter.  In all truth, there are times when you can't help yourself; you yield to the temptation with the clear conscience of a person who knows how story is by its intrinsic nature an exaggeration, those extra details added in the hope of making the story and its built-in fabric of exaggerations emerge as a relic of some useful value among individuals who strain to make a living in and of the world.